It’s no surprise that Rothschild Boulevard, the symbol of prime real estate, was just converted into a “tent city” in protest of an indisputable housing crises. In Israel, the market is such that even those who’ve attained higher education and stable careers will still not likely stand the chanceof owning property (without major assistance), and much more likely to live in long term debt. Needless to say, Israelis feel cornered and cheated – and they’ve taken it to the streets!
When I was walking back from work on Rothschild this week, in awe from the sea of tents stretched almost one mile down theboulevard, I spotted Moshe casually reading the newspaper outside his tent! Moshe is my friend from work who, along with thousands of others, has been sleeping on Rothschild all week. I plotted myself next to his tent, and for the rest of the night I was just falling in love with Tel Aviv, over and over and over again.
Volunteer scame around distributing free beer, water, and cigarettes; live music soared; discussion groups spontaneously congregated. His tent-friendly neighbors included gays, students, high-techies, religious, immigrants, lefties, conservatives, and everyone in between. Dear readers, for what is probably the most polarized society in the world, this level of unity is extremely rare. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see this country get along in times of full-on, existential wars.
So, you get, it’s a real national crises. The ordinary Israeli is seeking a bit more hope and a whole lot of change.
At around two in the morning, I finally pulled myself away from Moshe’s tent, and made my way down the rest of Rothschild towards home. At the northern end of the boulevard, at least 50 or so campers were sitting around watching a movie. I peaked to see what was playing, and to my pleasant surprise, I saw a familiar face – the man himself who branded words “hope” and “change.” Presidential candidate Barack Obama was projected onto the screen, delivering his very last campaign speech in the highly contested State of North Carolina:
“…The quite heroes [of America]…they look after their families, they sacrifice for their children and grandchildren…they are just trying to do the right thing…The satisfaction they receive is to see their children and grandchildren live a better life than they did. And that’s what we are fighting for…”
For me, this was a moment of great pride. Israeli protesters were drawing inspiration from the ultimate story of the American dream – a black man from a broken home rises to become the President of the United States. It was also a moment of enormous gratitude. I, too, am a benefactor of the American dream. My parents immigrated with nothing, and gave me and my sister everything. In fact, my empowerment as an American gave me the courage to move to Israel…and find myself in a tent, a part of a movement to see our children live a better life than we do.